@Work Gallery - Inspired by Van Gogh
I was recently invited to make some new work for a spring show at @Work Gallery in Pimlico. After the success of their Frida Kahlo inspired show last year, which coincided with the V&A exhibition of Kahlo’s work, they are back again this year linking up with Tate’s exhibition for Van Gogh. Both galleries are conveniently situated in the same neighbourhood, should you fancy visiting both!
I’ve created two new neck pieces for the show, exploring the theme of “blue” and the “night sky”. Two mixed media works, using hand dyed natural indigo textiles, organic cotton, denim with indigo over dye, felt, fossilised coral, silver and silk - using the techniques of hand felting, hand dying, needle weaving, embroidery, patchwork, crochet and silversmithing processes. The images below show the front and reverse of each piece. “Blue Moon #1” & “Blue Moon #2”
Inspired by Van Gogh - 27th March -11th August 2019.
“Siblings” - a Student Exhibition at morley College
In February I’m going to be setting up a new show at Morley College. We will be presenting new works by five jewellers who took part in a “Mixed Media Jewellery” course with me last year. New artworks were created in a nine month period after the course, with jewellers taking the design challenges and processes learnt as starting points, to generate new mixed media jewellery.
New York City Jewellery Week- 18th-24th November 2018
I’m very fortunate to have been invited to show some works with Mobilia Gallery as part of their special presentation at New York Jewellery Week.This is the first time I have ever shown my work in NY, my favourite American City! After the presentation in NY the exhibition “Nature redefined” will return to the gallery to be open to all in Cambridge MA, from 8th December 2018 until 31st January 2019.
Inspired by Frida
I’m showing a piece of work from my “A Woman’s Work is Never Done” series at @work gallery in Pimlico this spring. It’s a group show. You can see more of the works here. My piece on show is based on one of Kahlo’s earrings seen in a self portrait "Self portrait, dedicated to Dr Elosser", 1940, where you can see just one ear! The earrings were given to her by Picasso, they are from the Mexican tradition of "Milagros". Milagros are pieces made of wax or ivory, shaped in the form of the part of the human body that the person wants to be healed, and left on the altar of the Saint they pray to. At that time Frida had health issues with her hand. The exhibition runs until the 4th November 2018.
Blue On Blue
I’ve been taking advantage of the good weather this May, to get outside and make some samples with organic cotton and natural indigo. I prefer working with natural dyes outside as I’m using some chemicals and mordents but it’s also more enjoyable too, to be making work from botanical sources and be outside in the garden working with them in nature.
The Natural Indigo vat takes a little while to prepare. Mixing two separate solutions and combining them. There is a fair bit of waiting involved and testing to make sure it’s working well before you go ahead with submerging the cotton. The part I enjoy the most is watching the fabric change from yellow/green to blue as it oxidises in the air. It’s quite magical to see. You can keep the indigo solution for a few weeks, so I’m hoping to get some time to make some more samples over the next month.
For my most recent series of samples I worked with increments of ten minutes, to produce 9 samples, gradually getting darker and darker blues. They look really beautiful when stacked together.
I also overworked some denim samples I produced a few weeks back, from up-cycled denim. It really brings out the blues of the denim and gives a crisper finish. The samples in denim are using traditional patchwork techniques including string work.
The Morley and ACJ Lecture Series
I’ve been invited by the ACJ to give a lecture at Morley College on my jewellery practice. I’ll be talking about my frieze “A woman’s work is never done” 21 jewellery works made for 15 trail blazing women. Come and hear about the materials and techniques used to make the work and about the pioneering women that inspired them.
Date: 7 March 2018
Time: 18:00 - 19:00
Venue: Room B13, Morley College London, 61 Westminster Bridge Road, London, SE1 7HT
The event is free and open to all, but you have to book a place in advance. Previous speakers have included; Paul Wells, Alex Monroe and Jessica Turrell. Anastasia Young will be delivering the next in the ACJ series on the 11th May.
Jack In the Green
Folklore and old traditions often play an important part in my making and research. A couple of weeks ago I attended the Jack In the Green festival at Hastings. It’s an annual event, over four days, culminating in a costumed parade on the fourth day of the festival where the “Jack” dances and parades up and down the streets and lanes of Hastings followed by his bogies and a magnificent cast of green characters, dancers, straw-bears, birds and a giant. Jack slowly makes his way up to the West Hill, with locals and visitors snaking their way up to the top of the town for further music and merriment. At the end of the festival the Jack is symbolically slain and the spirit of summer is released.
I enjoy how a lot of the events across the country are a blend of old pagan traditions mixed with more recent Victorian ways of celebrating and 60's and 70's influences, as well as present day fashions and subcultures. They have all made their marks and culminated in a hybrid celebration.
There has been more interest over the last few years for these kind of customs and I have noticed more artists taking an interest in old customs, costumes, folklore and folk art. There is a zeitgeist for these traditions across the arts, present too in the recent resurgence and interest in folk horror films. It’s a trend I’m excited by, if it gives more importance and resources for recording and celebrating some fascinating aspects of our social history.
Mixed media Showcase
I’m going to be showing work in a new exhibition at Morley College, in advance of teaching a short course on mixed media jewellery there in May. The Barbara Christie Case has a rolling calendar of exhibitions, showing work by tutors and students.
The “Barbara Christie Case” is named in memory of Barbara who was head of jewellery at Morley for over 30 years. I have fond memories of Barbara who was a visiting tutor at Central Saint Martin’s when I was a student.
“Mixed Media Show” will run until the 29th May 2018.
cornucopia 29th January - 26th May 2018
I'm exhibiting at RBSA in Birmingham as part of their latest exhibition "Cornucopia" Which aims to "Celebrate nature's bounty through this varied display of jewellery, ceramics, and textiles. Each item is hand-made by a designer-maker who has taken inspiration from the colours, forms, and subjects found throughout flora and fauna." I'm showing a few one-offs works as well as my ever popular multiples, including earrings, garden rings and bud branch pendants. If you are over that way please pop by.
Special occasion jewelry 9th December 2017 - 27 January 2018
Mobilia Gallery is presenting a group presentation of Celebratory Adornment from invited artists around the globe. I'm showing a mixed media neckpiece "Omega Neckpiece" It's forms part of my Bloomsbury works and my research into the Omega workshops. Mobilia is hands down one of my favourite galleries. We have lost many of our art jewellery galleries in recent years and so I am very grateful for having the opportunity to continue to show and sell my jewellery in these established and innovative venues, as well as getting to work with some great people who never tire of supporting our craft!
2017 Beijing International Jewelry Art Exhibition
The biennial exhibition is hosted by the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology. It's open from the 18th September until the 26th November 2017. The exhibition is part of the events planned for 2017 Beijing Design Week. I'm delighted to have a brooch selected for this prestigious event. You can see more about the exhibition on their official website www.futuredesign.cn
A Woman’s Work is Never Done
21 Jewellery works made for 15 trailblazing women. Created over three years, this frieze of jewellery represents the women who have been important to me, influenced my ways of working or ways of thinking. The collection was prompted by an ACJ exhibition in 2014, where I made a neckpiece in honour of Patti Smith, in response to the theme of ICONS. I accumulated a long list of trailblazing women and I decided to make more works in honour of them and their work.
It became an intensely personal way of making. Not purely making a work that would be a literal representation of the person I had chosen, or their style of work. It became a way of exploring how I felt about them and the particular influence they had had on me. Often the connection with them triggered a feeling, which then became, in part, a non-visual response for making.
Many pieces have multiple layers of symbolism and sentiment. Some pieces allude to something more tangible in their work, such as the scissors in the work “Wheel of life” for Patricia Highsmith, which references a murder weapon from one of her novels. The works for AS Byatt aims in part to capture the mood of Byatt’s novel “The Children’s Book” but also makes reference to the Cottingley fairies and experiences of my own.
These works are made in honour of the women but running alongside this is a dialogue with myself and my own interests, preoccupations and personal ways of making. Many of my jewellery objects have a collage or assemblage feel to them. For me, the person I make a work for might trigger a memory from childhood, have a connotation with a trip I made or an object I have seen in a museum. These complexities do not necessarily need to be explained to the viewer as once they are out there in the world they become something new and each viewer is invited to have their own conversation with the work. The experience will be unique to that individual and they might not admire the woman as I do or even have come across them and their work before. They are made to be seen a frieze of works, capturing different aspects of life and it’s cycles.
Some works, manifest themselves as a badges of honour to celebrate the achievements of the woman, others act as a talisman to offer protection. Most obviously the work for Mary Anning, which is titled “Talisman”. The notion of this piece is that it would have protected Anning from landslides, while she hunted for fossils. The neckpiece for Amy Johnson includes ephemera from her own lifetime. An enamel pin badge from the 1930’s, in the shape of a green plane with the name “Amy” written on it. It would have been bought as a commemorative souvenir after her flight to Australia. The work also includes a silver rose, to represent Yorkshire and has many embroidered details and words relevant to her life’s work and the planes she flew in.
I allowed myself to be quite fanciful with my making and I did not edit my responses. In the same vein I did not edit my list of women in any way, it was an honest and instinctive list of women who had been influential for me.
The women I have chosen are often the first to reach a goal, the first to pioneer a way of working, resilient women and women who made something of themselves despite set backs or gender bias. The women who are unapologetically themselves and get on and do their thing the way they want to!
I was surprised how many women on my list were musicians and strangely there are no jewellers in my list at all! There were many more trailblazers on my original list than I have managed to make work for. The strong women selected are from diverse areas; including sculpture, science, writing, painting, acting, civil rights, palaeontology and aviation.
A full list of the jewellery Anthology:
“Sister Brooches” for Louisa May Alcott, “Mr Punch” for PJ Harvey, “Woolgathering” for Patti Smith, “She flies with her own wings” for Amy Johnson, “Cottingley sisters” for AS Byatt, “Wheel of life” & “Lobster” for Patricia Highsmith, “Landscape” for Barbara Hepworth, “Self portrait” for Frida Kahlo, “Chair” for Rosa Parks, “Structure B” for Rosalind Franklin, “Talisman” for Mary Anning, “Mac ‘n’ heart” for Drew Barrymore, “Spellbound” for Siouxsie Sioux, “Thames” for Virginia Woolf and “Yoyo” for Kate Bush.
Images for all the above works can be seen on my gallery page.
Make Your Future - craft in schools
I’ve been working at the Crafts Council since August 2017, as Project Manager on Make Your Future. The project was developed from the research findings in our education manifesto and aims to bring craft back into the classroom, with a really hands on focus – but also incorporating STEAM in its broadest sense, looking at digital technology, the science and maths that naturally occurs in any designing and making and links with all our creative industries.
The project initially runs for three years and in September we launched our year two provision. After the first three years, the project will continue and develop based on our findings from the first few years.
Each new year sees us working very intensively with 24 schools over three regions and offering high quality CPD for teachers in a leading University. This teacher development is then followed by professional makers visiting the schools to deliver a series of hands on practical workshops for young people to experience making and thinking with their hands. The teachers and makers work together on this as a team with teachers building confidence in new craft skills, to teach for many years to come where ever they are working. We have three current specialism’s - textiles in Yorkshire, ceramics in London and metal in Birmingham. All carefully chosen, linked to the history of the region and the crafts they have supported in the past and still do today.
It’s been an incredible project to work on so far and I can see it making a difference in schools and young people across the country. We made a film to celebrate the first year of the project, you can view it here...https://vimeo.com/247284771
I'm taking part in an exhibition of work by the jewellery tutors at Morley College. It's open until the 21st October 2017 and is a great showcase of works by my colleagues and friends who are maker-educators, including Anastasia Young, Paul Wells, Louise Seijen Ten Hoorn, Adaesi Ukairo, Felix Denby, Lindsey Mann, Helen Smith and others.
I'm showing an archive piece from a few years ago, which utilities oxidised silver and hand dyed cotton yarns with various natural dyes including indigo and alkanet. Images left to right: Joanne Haywood, Anastasia Young, Lindsey Mann and Louise Seijen Ten Hoorn.
Narrative Jewelry: tales from the toolbox by Mark Fenn
The 28th October will see the arrival of a new jewellery book, featuring narrative jewellery from around the globe, curated and written by Mark Fenn and including essays from leading makers and educators. It features a foreword by jewelry professor Jack Cunningham and text by artists Jo Pond and Dauvit Alexander (The Justified Sinner).
I can't wait to see a copy and it also features one of my brooches too! I'm delighted to be a part of this presentation of narrative works. You can pre order the book via this link www.narrative-jewellery.com
Mark Fenn also runs wedding ring workshops at his studio in Wales, should you be getting hitched and fancy making your own rings!
crafts council: DIRECTORY MAKER OF THE WEEK
Each week the Crafts Council chooses a maker from their directory to be interviewed for "Maker of the week" I was honored to be selected and interviewed by Sarah Cullen from the directories team...
"What is your favourite part of the making process?
Material exploration is the most satisfying part of the making process for me. Being a mixed media jeweller I am involved with many techniques and processes and I’m always learning something new. A familiar material can reveal new properties and surprises each time you delve deeper with experiments. I might get obsessed with a small number of materials and processes for a particular time, but it’s always evolving. I also enjoy seeing a new piece emerging into a final work."
It’s in the trees…
I split my week between the wilds of Kent and the big smog of London. When I’m in Kent I like to make the most of being outdoors, especially in the summer months when the days are longer, I’m out there as much as possible to take advantage of living next to ancient woodland. I’ll forage for wild food and watch the native animals, trees and plants. I sometimes pick up a few treasures for the studio to look at and draw - a seedpod, a leaf, or fallen nuts
This summer I have been brushing up on my bushcraft skills and getting better at knowing the trees in my local area, attempting to identify animal tracks and walking along new footpaths I have not ventured along before. I’ve collected nettles and made my own cord. It’s surprisingly strong as a material! I’m sure I spent too long trying to make it look “perfect”, when I guess the real test is making it fairly swiftly and using it for practical reasons, but I’m a maker so it can’t be helped!
I also started using resources in my own garden to use as materials, including crocosmia leaves to play with in the studio, making some coiled forms with wild silk as a binding. I’ve been drying out some cherry wood from the garden for a couple of years and I enjoyed carving a simple haggle form and working on making tapered ends in ash.
There have been several blackberry trips this year (a usual occurrence for me in August & September), and I’ll probably save some berries towards the end of the season to make some more dye experiments.
Often this kind of making in my studio will be about building “thinking works” where they help me explore an idea or feeling I’m trying to capture. These works might not necessarily filter through to a final collection, or the actual materials I end up using. I like to know the old ways of making things with hand tools and the minimum technology! Watch this space...
World on a string: EXPLORING CONTEMPORARY INTERPRETATIONS OF BEAD WORK 15th July - 31st AUGUST
I'm presenting two new works at Mobilia Gallery this Summer, Luna neckpiece and Aurora Pectoral, both made in response to by recent trip to the Amalfi Coast in Italy.
Aurora neckpiece - Representing Aurora, Roman Goddess of the dawn. A pectoral of golden sunlight and saffron colourings. A representation of the Amalfi coast sunrise, visits to Pompeii, Vesuvius and the sunlight at Ravello.
Luna neckpiece - A counterpart to the sunrise. Luna, goddess of the moon. Capturing sunsets at Amalfi and the reflections of colours at night in the sea, a visit to Positano and the vine covered street markets, trading jewellery and goods from many countries.
"Beads have a rich tradition and history, the oldest bead discovered dates to 108,000 b.c. Throughout the ages, beads have been used for barter, currency, and as the “world’s first form of adornment.” The humble bead can be made of glass or wood, of plastic, crystal or even barnacles. And it can be shaped into mosaics, necklaces, teapots and other countless creative and sculptural forms."
Embroidery Magazine, July/August 2017
Hot of the press...The Art Textile Magazine, published by the Embroiders Guild has a great article/interview about my project"A woman's work is never done". You can get a copy via their website, or from many of our UK craft galleries including, Contemporary Applied Arts, Ruthin Craft Centre, Bluecoat display centre, Craft in the Bay, Dovecot Studios & Leeds Craft Centre and Design Gallery.
“Blue Death” Adventures in natural indigo dying
This Spring I will be showing "Blue Death" a neckpiece, at Mobilia Gallery in Cambridge USA, as part of their exhibition celebrating 4000 years of jewellery, linked to an exhibition at The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. My work was inspired by one of my favourite exhibits at the British Museum, Sumerian Court Jewellery from UR. C.2,500 BC. The extravagant assemblage of jewellery is beautiful when viewed, yet has a more macabre meaning. The pieces were excavated from a Royal burial and were found among several bodies. The Queen dressed in magnificent splendor was accompanied into the afterlife by her attendants.
"Blue Death" references the use of dye by ancient people for its symbolism of colour. Our blood is blue before it reaches the oxygen in the air around us. The fluid dye of the indigo represents this movement and the synthetic red once it is spilt. Blue Death could be interpreted as a royal death and also echoes the similarly named Black Death.
My neckpiece uses the following techniques: oxidised Silver fused and formed. Hand felted forms using red merino. Hand dyed yarn using natural Indigo dye. Crocheted cotton using unbleached yarn.
The pieces in the Museum are displayed based on how they were found on the skeletal remains. There is no evidence to show the totality of their appearance now the textiles elements are eroded. My translation of the works uses textiles to a great extent; these elements would not last very long underneath the earth. The original pieces could have been worn alongside textile elements. It is an enjoyable fantasy to think how they might have actually looked. The title Blue Death conjures up a story that invites the viewer to find out more about the origins of the work or create a meaning themselves from the puzzle presented.
4000 Years of Jewelry Design- Mobilia Gallery - May 6 – June 17 2017
Starting on the 6th May, i'll be showing "Blue Death", a neckpiece at Mobilia Gallery in Cambridge, USA. It's a fantastic group of artists to be exhibiting with and I am honored to be showing in the company of Gerda Flokinger and Arline Fisch, two people I greatly admired when I was a student, for their pioneering techniques!
"4000 Years of Jewelry Design: A Contemporary Interpretation was inspired by the exhibition, “Past is Present: Revival Jewelry” currently onview at The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. For this group show we invited masters in the field as well as emerging talents, to create a piece of personal adornment, combining their historical inspiration with their contemporary visions and brilliant technical skills."
Made London - Canary Wharf 22 - 25 march 2017
I'm going to be showing work at Made London - Canary Wharf, in March 2017.
I will be showcasing "A woman's work is never done", a special project I have been working on since 2014, making 21 works of jewellery for 15 trailblazing women who have made an impact on me in my life, both personally and creatively. It's the first time these works will be seen together as a frieze and include pieces made in honor of Patricia Highsmith, Rosalind Franklin, Kate Bush, Rosa Parks, AS Byatt, Amy Johnson and Siouxsie Sioux.
"MADE LONDON – CANARY WHARF is a new event bringing some of the best contemporary designer makers in the country to the heart of Canary Wharf. There will be two shows – 17-20 and 22-25 March. Each will present around 60 makers and change completely for the second show."
I will be there for week two, 22nd - 25th March. It's free admittance, please pop by and say hello.
Country Living - Emporium, February 2017
Readers of Country Living magazine will be able to spy one of my brooches featured in the February 2017 Emporium pages. "Blàth Brooch" is a piece I made after a trip to Skye. It features a remnant of Harris tweed, silver hand formed shells, embroidered fern, a handmade silver kilt pin, crocheted frame, lapis and a found shell.
20:20 VISIONS - CELEBRATING TWENTY YEARS OF THE ASSOCIATION FOR CONTEMPORARY JEWELLERY
I was delighted to have three works selected for this special 20 years exhibition at the ACJ. Starting off at the National Centre for Craft and Design in Sleaford. This exhibition is touring to to a number of fantastic venues including:
Sheffield Institute of Arts, Sheffield Hallam University 20 March - 24 April
The Goldsmiths' Centre 17 May - 29 June
Vittoria Street Gallery, School of Jewellery, Birmingham City University 11 Sept - 23 Oct
Crafts Study Centre, UCA Farnham 31 Oct - 9 December
The three works I am exhibiting at 20:20 Visions, Silvia's brooch, Heirloom Verona 90 days and Cutler Neckpiece.
West Dean - Mixed Media Jewellery – Developing your own personal language
At the beginning of the month I was at West Dean teaching a course on mixed media jewellery to five really wonderful students.
The course was centred around mixed media jewellery with a focus on building confidence in mixed media and combining materials. We spent a lot of time working on textiles techniques in the first half of the course. Working yarns around forms and making three dimensional elements from different yarns. The second half of the course was all about combining the new techniques with other materials and processes...and some students decided to focus on the textiles elements a little longer as they were really taken with the new techniques.
We covered a lot over the three days including a presentation on mixed media jewellery, making crocheting ball and tube forms, stitching and crocheting around metal wire objects, felt balls, shisha stitching and a few hybrids from these techniques based on the ideas the students had arrived with. It was a really enjoyable weekend for me, with some really beautiful samples being produced. I think a lot of new ideas for future works were taken away to be developed further.
Myths Test Drive - The Good Deeds
Myths 2016 - Test Drive was a Art in Public Space project curated by Loukia Richards and Christoph Ziegler, who are both visual artists based in Hamburg. The jewellery exhibition, which formed part of Munich Jewellery Week, took place inside a trailer-turned-into-a-gallery in down town Munich. The peripatetic gallery travelled to a number of locations throughout the week.
The premise of the innovative project was, “If you can check out how a car works, why not check out whether a piece of jewellery makes you look more glamorous, popular, funny, insightful, attractive etc?”
The project gave participants the option to lease the jewellery to wear for one or more days. An on-line booking system guaranteed that the items borrowed would be returned in perfect condition. The participants also had the option to buy the work.
I was intrigued by this forward thinking idea and I wanted to use their unique ethos in my own pieces and really question how we interact with jewellery in galleries as viewers and customers. I decided that instead of purchasing the work with a traditional transaction of money, the currency for my works would be to do a good deed for others.
The idea behind the works is linked The Judgement of Paris. Taking the idea of "Kallisti" and what it means in a modern day setting. To be the fairest, is to be the kindest and "fairest" should really pertain to being a good person rather than just having a good appearance. The brooches are offered as medals to deserving suitors.
The Medal suitors were asked to let us know what their good deed was within three months of receiving the brooch and send us a short text and images about their deed. I left it as open as possible so that each person could respond in a way that suited them and captured their good deed and personality.
Not really knowing what to expect, I was delighted to hear back from the three participants. All three had very individual approaches to the challenge. It was interesting too that each of them had already been doing many good deeds as a part of their daily lives. It seemed that the brooches themselves had found deserving owners!
Here are the three participants, Daniel Von Weienberger, Kim Tiong and Li Ching, all wearing their "Kallisti" brooches. You can read the full story about their "Good Deeds" via my blog, The Needle Files.
Images courtesy of Loukia Richards, Christoph Ziegler, Daniel Von Weinberger, Kim Tiong & Li Ching.
Myths 2016 - Test Drive -Munich Jewellery Week
I am currently working on a set of three brooches for "Myths - Test Drive" , part of Munich Jewellery Week. Myths is organised by Loukia Richards and Christoph Ziegler. It's a really innovative project where the visitor is invited to "test drive" pieces of jewellery for the day, a few hours with the option of buying the piece after trying. The borrower can wear the works as they navigate around the jewellery week, attending different shows and events whilst wearing the work. Like many of the works available in the Myths jewellery lending library, my works will be inspired by Greek Myths and in particular how these Myths can be translated for the modern day.
Galerie Caractère - FESTIF
I am taking part in a new exhibition from November 14th to 28th at Galerie Caractère in Switzerland. The exhibition "Festif" is to mark a special occassion as the gallery celebrates 15 years of existence as well as it's first year in Neuchâtel city centre.
"39 artistes et leurs créations originales y participent avec panache: liliana alves...marianne anselin...isabelle azaïs...gema barrera...ela bauer...anaïs beard...edith bellod...sophie bouduban...julie bouldoires...chao & eero... nelly chemin...pascal cretin...nicole de halleux...valentine dubois...michèle froidevaux...maria goti...ana hagopian...bruna hauert...joanne haywood...florence jaquet...nicole jaquet henry...sophie juriens...aline kokinopoulos...mia kwon...chloé laederach...léo by léo...jenny llewellyn...maä...ineke otte...capucine parel...ramón puig...fabienne schaller...caroline soldevila...karola torkos...violaine ulmer...thomas v. ...guillemette vulin...yasmin yahya"
Making More - A Collaborative Project
Back in November 2014 I was awarded a commission for "Making More" a pilot project organised by LV21 and Making Space with funding from Arts Council England.
Paivi Seppala (LV21) and Lynne Dick (Making Space), were looking to commission two UK-based designer-makers to work on a pilot project researching a new business model, focusing on the development of making skills at a local level in Hampshire/West Sussex Border and Kent/Medway areas. I was thrilled to be awarded the commission for Kent as it's the County I live in and love!
The project involved me developing and delivering a programme of skills teaching sessions for jewellery. From my historical research I designed and made a collection of brooches , with the idea that the group would learn to make them to sell in local outlets and events.
“Inspired by the model adopted by the Rural Industries Bureau in the 1930s recession, where local village women were trained in quilting and these quilts were then sold to the Dorchester, London, this research focuses on the ‘make do and mend’ attitude, social engagement and developing a skilled community workforce which can produce work to a high standard.”
The teaching element of the project took place on LV21, a 40 metre steel-hulled lightship transformed into a floating art space and performance facility. The most unusual place I have ever taught in! I visited LV21 back in December 2014 and was amazed at the space and the diversity of events that take place onboard, including: gigs, residencies, workshops and school visits as well as arts management and consultancy.
The initial taster day gave the group an insight into the research, design and development of my project, based on make do and mend jewellery from the 1940’s, focussing on plastics, leather, textiles and found materials. The group were guided through the process of making their own brooches, which lead to several of them making a longer commitment to join the maker cohort continuing on a longer course to learn further techniques.
During the development sessions it was so enjoyable to see the group build skills and confidence in their making. They were up for learning anything and were always willing to share ideas with each other. It's not easy learning new techniques and even if you have some experience, it's still a challenge to learn processes that are very precise and structured, working towards making a perfect product that will be ready to sell. It takes time and dedication to get good at anything in life, so it was amazing to see the core group of makers who came to every session and then practised at home getting better and better, week by week.
As part of the last workshop I took some portrait photos of everyone who was there, making in the afternoon session. One of the things about the original 1940's brooches is that there is an air of mystery around them. If you find one in an antique shop or spy one on eBay, you never get to find out who made it, did they wear it every day to work or keep it for special occasions? Did they sit down and make them with friends over a good chatter and what would they have spoken about? Did they select particular colours and make a brooch to match an outfit, or were they made for a friend as a gift? When something ends up in an antique shop waiting to be adopted by a new owner, it has lived a previous life and it's always very intriguing to me.
The lovely thing about making these brooches inspired by those from the past is that we can record the story as we work, by taking images and recording its development and history. I wanted to take some photographs of the women who have been working on the project, to record the process and also because it's just nice to see these amazing, creative and diversely talented people wearing the brooches they have made.
At the end of the project we took part in "Make do and Mend: Christmas on the home front", at the Royal Engineers Museum in Kent. I had visited the 1940's Christmas event last year as part of my research for the commission, so it was fitting I would return again this year as a finale to the first stage of the project.
The stand looked amazing and was staged over three tables, one selling the brooches made by the cohort, one showing demonstrations and offering the chance for visitors to make their own and the third showing a display of vintage haberdashery treasures, from books, to darning mushrooms, buttons and stocking threads.
After working on this project for over a year, is now a self sustaining making group, with the cohort leading it's own workshops to teach it's new members how to make the brooches.
During May the group took part in the National Voluntary Arts Week 2015 and the LV21 Making More Cohort were aboard the historic Light Vessel 21, teaching visitors to make the brooches and they made some new variations developed from my original designs. There were also family-friendly "CraftBomb" activities with a focus on recycling, featuring a giant woven Making More inspired brooch, the size of a hula hoop!